Hamburg’s historical Speicherstadt district is a World Heritage Site and home to Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model building universe and a miniature world of wonder for young and old alike. Especially when the Porsche 99X Electric – true to the original – speeds by on the Monaco racecourse.
The Porsche 99X Electric achieves a top speed of 85 centimeters per second.
“This is where the Porsche 99X Electric reaches its top speed,” says Gerrit Braun. He stretches his arm out over Monaco harbor and points to the long straight line bordered by high-rises, with spectators crowded on their balconies. “It’s important to brake into the left-hand curve toward the casino.” The ideal place to pass, especially because visitors have the perfect view of all the racing action. Gerrit Braun and his Miniatur Wunderland team in Hamburg first had to shrink Monaco. Like everything else here, the principality on the French Riviera was reproduced at a scale of 1:87. And even the race cars are just six centimeters long. Their top speed of 85 centimeters per second would translate to nearly 270 kmh in the real world. This is as realistic as it gets. But that’s also what makes the whole undertaking so difficult.
“We’ve been working on the motorsport project since 2015. It’s our biggest challenge to date,” says Braun. The 53-year-old and his twin brother Frederik founded Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg’s Speicherstadt 20 years ago. The entire exhibition space measures more than 10,000 square meters in size and, with around 1.4 million visitors a year, is one of the most popular attractions in Germany. 9,250 cars; 269,000 figures; 15,715 meters of track; 1,040 trains with more than 10,000 carriages; 4,340 buildings; and 130,000 trees. You’ll find cities, villages, mountain panoramas, an airport, artificial northern lights, and a fair. More than 300 employees have spent around one million hours creating an accessible microcosm of trains, ships, and airplanes in constant motion. At a scale of 1:87, many of the model cars are Porsches, including most recently the Formula E race car from Weissach. Porsche Motorsport supplied the CAD data for the Porsche 99X Electric.
Porsche input: The motorsport department provided information on the Porsche 99X Electric in the form of detailed illustrations and 3D data for accurate reproduction at a scale of 1:87.
3D print: The body of the Formula E race car, with which Porsche competed in the World Championship, was created on the basis of the data provided.
Workshop: In addition to painting the race car and affixing the stickers by hand, the miniaturization experts in Hamburg also equipped the car with the magnetic technology for racing.
The redesigned south of France, which will officially open in the first half of 2022, also features the legendary Monaco Grand Prix course. “We’ll alternate between Formula 1 and Formula E races,” says impresario Braun. “Everything true to the original, with parade lap, safety car, starting grid – and then action!”
A scenario this realistic has never been built before. Everything had to be created from scratch. The software responsible for controlling 20 race cars was developed on Braun’s computer. The system responds to the driving maneuvers of the other racers within 50 milliseconds, so each race is different. With real battles for position, passing maneuvers, and occasionally even a crash. “Of course, we want to avoid that if at all possible because then the safety car has to come out and a couple of people are kept busy for some time,” says Braun.
While the race simulations are already running in the computer, Braun still has to teach the cars to accelerate at just the right moment. “The software always wants to maintain the lead, but sometimes you just need to slow down during a race. Programming all that is a complicated process.” The small electric cars are powered by magnetic fields. The 21-meter course through miniature Monaco is made up of 24 special circuit boards with a total of 1,400 magnetic field sectors, each of which is controlled separately and generates its own magnetic field.
While the software still needs some work, the race cars are already raring to go. They were created using the model building experts’ 3D printer and sheets of plastic just 0.03 millimeters thick. The chassis are painted over multiple times and faithfully reproduced down to the smallest sponsor stickers to reflect their full-size counterparts. The underbody conceals a Halbach array, a diamond-shaped panel that serves as the counterpart to the magnetic fields along the course.
“We’ve been working on the motorsport project since 2015. It’s our biggest challenge to date.” Gerrit Braun
“We may be able to shrink down objects, but we can’t shrink down time.”
If everything goes according to plan, the miniature car races will be the Hamburg team’s next global milestone in the field of model building. “The crowning achievement of all our efforts,” says Braun. “Even more complex than the airport with its airplanes taking off and landing, which was commissioned in 2011.” The fact that the masterminds of miniaturization have been working on the ambitious idea of a real racecourse for six years demonstrates their passion as well as the sophistication of the project. According to Braun, the unsolvable problem with miniaturization is this: “We may be able to shrink down objects, but we can’t shrink down time.”
SideKICK: Promoting Culture
The Elbphilharmonie, one of the most spectacular concert halls in the world, is located in close proximity to the historical Speicherstadt and Miniatur Wunderland. Porsche has recently become a sponsor of Hamburg’s new icon. The company has supported cultural institutions and events for many years, including the internationally renowned Stuttgart Ballet and the Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig.